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Never to be Forgotten This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   When a teacher calls on me in the middle of class, I tend to freeze up. And as for small upsets in a well-planned schedule? (Who'd-a-thunk I'd need an ID to get into the State Department?) Well, they throw me for a loop. Consequently, by the time I was sitting at a big, important-looking conference table awaiting the presence of greatness and power, one might assume I was nervous.

Ha! Me? Nervous? Of course not! Okay. Maybe a little.

Perhaps I've watched too much Jay Leno, but this wasn't exactly the relaxed blue-jeans situation for which I had been hoping. The room was crowded and the conference table was huge, with a glass of ice water and a napkin that said "Department of State" at each seat. Colin Powell's "people" brought their own tape recorders and the official photographer stayed in the room throughout the interview.

Surprisingly, as soon as we were settled in our seats, my case of nerves stopped. I was truly interested in what the Secretary of State had to say. I sat directly across the table from him, and when he answered my questions, he looked me right in the eye. It showed he was concentrating on the moment, despite the fact that it was obvious he had much larger concerns than the questions we eagerly posed. And the crises in Iraq and Korea notwithstanding, Powell answered each question with a focused and thoughtful mind. Even when his right-hand man (or, at least, the guy sitting to his right) said that we only had time for three more questions, Powell did not speed up his pace, but continued with his lengthy and intriguing answers.

It wasn't only his eye contact and contemplative responses that made visible the reasons why Powell has been so successful, though. At the end of the interview, when we stood for a group photo, Mike was still leaving his seat as Olga and I joined the Secretary of State. Powell said to the photographer, "Wait for Mike!" And then, as he was almost out the door, he noticed the books in Olga's and my hands and said, "Oh, Maria, do you have a book you want me to sign?" I can hardly remember my own name, never mind the name of someone who was introduced to me half an hour ago.

After Secretary Powell left, Olga and I each took our napkins from the conference table as souvenirs. One of Powell's men had lingered behind and asked, "Uh, did somebody take a napkin?"

Well, yes, I took a napkin, but I also took something much more important. I took Colin Powell's answers and the history of my country and the whole amazing experience to a place where I could never take a napkin still stuffed somewhere in my luggage. I took it to the corner of my mind where memories are neve rforgotten.





This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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